Friday, 23 November 1990 Washington, DC
1. HEARD ISLAND EXPERIMENT WILL SEARCH FOR THE GREENHOUSE SIGNAL.
At the heart of the greenhouse debate are uncertainties in global
temperature trends determined from point observations of surface
air temperature. Measuring changes in acoustic travel times over
large volumes of the ocean avoids these uncertainties. 210 db
acoustic pulses transmitted from Heard Island in the south Indian
Ocean will be detected at locations around the world. An annual
change of 0.005 C in average water temperature would alter the
10,000 second travel time to Coos Bay, Oregon by about 140 ms.
Since the travel time can be measured to within about 1 ms, a
warming rate of 0.5 C per century would be unmistakable after a
few years. Some marine biologist think they have their own ocean
warming signal in the bleaching of corals. The delicate symbiotic
relationship between the coral animals and certain algae that
live within them is highly sensitive to temperature. Since the
corals remove large amounts of CO2 from the ocean, their death
could accelerate the warming process that led to their demise.
2. NEW DARPA DIRECTOR IS EXPECTED TO AVOID COMMERCIAL TAINT.
acting director of DARPA, Victor Reis, has been named director.
Reis replaces Craig Fields, who was banished to an obscure job in
the Pentagon last May (WN 4 May 90). Fields, a former Harvard
math professor, offended free-market purists in the White House
by using DARPA resources as venture capital for such commercial
technologies as HDTV and gallium arsenide switches. It had become
apparent to Fields that military systems are much more likely to
benefit from civilian spin-offs than the other way around. His
approach made him a hero to many in Congress and industry. In
July, Fields became president of the Microelectronics and
Computer Technology Corp. Reis, who was recruited by Fields,
will stick to defense applications in spending his $1.4B budget.
3. CHANGES IN THE HOUSE SCIENCE, SPACE AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE
as a result of the elections will not be settled until January.
Doug Walgren (D-PA), one of the most active members of SS&T, was
unexpectedly defeated. One of the charges his opponent leveled
against him was that he sought to increase the NSF budget. The
Walgren seat is expected to remain in Pennsylvania. Committee
Chairman Robert Roe (D-NJ) might switch to Public Works if its
present chairman, Glenn Anderson (D-CA), steps down; sewers carry
more weight than science. That would open up a fight for chairman
of SS&T, which has been coveted for years by George Brown (D-CA).
4. HUBBLE REPAIR JOB IS EXPECTED TO REQUIRE EXTENSIVE SPACEWALKS.
NASA must decide between two dozen plans for correcting the flaw
in Hubble's optics, any one of which would involve lengthy EVAs
(Extravehicular Activities). In addition, the astronauts must
try to fix the jitter triggered by the transition from shadow to
light. It was thought the jitter could be corrected by software
changes, but Hubble's memory is just to small to accommodate it.